When I first moved to Mexico, I knew just enough Spanish
to buy groceries, say hello to my neighbors
to tell telemarketers I couldn’t speak Spanish. I knew
three people who could speak English: two of them were
unfriendly, catty women, a little older than me, and an old man
named Roberto who preferred his cat to people. For one
whole month, I was surrounded by a world
that could not talk to me, and it was bliss.
One day, Roberto showed up at the door with his daughter.
She was my age, he said, and he thought we should be friends.
“We will teach you Spanish,” he said. “You’ll learn from both of us.”
Every day, the two of them would bring me cookies and fruit for breakfast,
I would make coffee, and Roberto would tirelessly
give me the words for the things around me.
I didn’t know how to tell him I had come here for silence
that I was happiest when I had no idea what was being said.
Within a year, the murmur of voices in the streets
became real conversations, the excited sportscasters on TV
made complete sense, I could hold conversations
with strangers. Roberto’s daughter and I had nothing in common—
she loved shopping and boys, I liked drugs and punk rock.
They eventually stopped coming by for breakfast
but the damage had been done. The world made sense again
and I was no longer alone.


Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I'm in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out mid-2018.